For Debussy, even less than for the Beethoven of the “Pastoral” Symphony, writing about nature does not mean naïvely imitating it by portraying the elements or the meteorological phenomena that animate them; descriptive music suits neither the flexibility of his music nor his creative temperament. Instead, he invents, he responds to nature through his art, setting up something else in contrast to it. By contrast, “Dialogue du vent et de la mer” (which Debussy originally entitled “Le vent fait danser lamer”) is more dramatic, more affirmative, and therefore less sparkling. Shimmering haze is replaced by powerful impulse. The music sweeps along with a sense of violent ecstasy, reflecting the composer’s lifelonglove of the sea.
La Mer was premiered on 15 October 1905 at the Concerts Lamoureux, conducted by Camille Chevillard. Debussy did later decide to change one short section of its finale, however: there was originallya fanfare in bars 237–244 which he decided was inappropriate, cutting it when he revised the score in 1909 for a new edition. This recording, based on the final version, also includes an excerpt of “Dialogue du ventet de la mer” that does feature the fanfare.